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/ Institute of Philosophy, Citizenship and Youth


Critical eye

Being able to appreciate the complexity of lived situations by adopting a critical and self-corrective attitude to thinking and acting.



Having a critical eye simultaneously requires listening, understanding, taking position and adopting a self-corrective stance—that is, recognizing the shortcomings in one’s own reasoning, accepting criticism, correcting one’s mistakes, and changing one’s viewpoint in light of evidence and others’ perspectives. From the IPCY’s standpoint, responsible citizens who have a critical eye can:

  • Identify reasonable judgments, that is, discerning them in narratives, articles or arguments, or recognizing them in their peers’ thoughts, by analyzing the logical connections of a sequence of verbal exchanges, by comparing and contrasting conflicting claims, etc.

  • Construct reasonable judgments, by using relevant criteria, by avoiding logical errors, by making useful distinctions, by invoking counter-examples, by offering helpful analogies, by connecting unsupported ideas to the motives underlying them, by detecting the defining features of a situation, by turning examples into arguments, etc.

  • Act in accordance with reasonable judgments, by changing one’s behaviour to reflect one’s revised position and by taking seriously the opinions of others, by emulating the well-reasoned conduct of others, by testing hypotheses in daily life, etc.



Several approaches guide the IPCY’s conception of a critical eye: reasonableness (Lipman), metacognition (Metcalfe), critical reasoning (Paul and Elder), and discomfort (Boler).

  • Reasonableness : The kind of critical eye supported by the IPCY is rooted in a Lipmanian conception of reasonableness understood as the ability to employ rational procedures in a judicious manner. The development of reasonableness is necessarily collaborative since it “refer[s] not just to how one acts, but to how one is acted upon: It signifies one’s capacity to listen to or be open to reason” (Lipman, 2003 : 97). When we are looking for the most reasonable thing to think, value or do in a given context, we can communally make well-reasoned (resulting from solid arguments, adequate evidence and a combination of critical and creative thinking) and well-informed (supported by multiple perspectives and accountable to the give and take of dialogue) judgments.

  • Metacognition : Having a critical eye does not mean having a disengaged form of rationality searching for absolute truth, but it means having a reliable, caring orientation toward reasonable judgment-making enabling one to cope with difficult and complex situations using various thinking strategies. Chief among these is metacognition, the individual and collective ability to grasp and evaluate thinking processes to refine and improve the situations they enable (Azevedo, Benhagh, Duffy, Harley, & Trevors, 2012 ; Garrison & Akyol, 2015 ; White & Frederiksen, 1998). A number of empirical studies have shown that youth’s metacognitive abilities can be cultivated (Baas, Castelijns, Vermeulen, Martens, & Segers, 2015 ; De Backer, Van Keer, & Valcke, 2015 ; Serra & Metcalfe, 2009). A critical eye thus equips responsible citizens with the sense of judgment needed to make the difficult decisions which responsible autonomy requires by structuring their thinking and their actions, thereby contributing to their emerging self-efficacy.

  • Critical reasoning : The notion of a critical eye is inspired by the approach of educational theorists Richard Paul and Linda Elder. For them, critical thinking “is the process of analyzing and assessing thinking with a view to improving it” (2005, p. 7). Their model comprises a set of elements which make up critical thinking (point of view, purpose, question at stake, information, interpretation and inference, concepts, assumptions, and consequences), of criteria that define critical thinking (clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, logic, and significance), and of intellectual virtues underlying critical thinking (integrity, humility, confidence in reason, perseverance, impartiality, courage, empathy, and autonomy). According to Paul and Elder, it is by routinely applying the criteria of critical thinking to the elements of reasoning in order to develop the intellectual virtues that youth can truly exercise their critical thinking. A meta-analysis conducted in 2015 shows that certain pedagogical strategies, notably dialogue, authentic and contextualized problems and mentoring, are effective to develop youth’s critical thinking from primary school to university (Abrami, Bernard, Borokhovski, Waddington, Wade, & Persson, 2015).

  • Discomfort : Discomfort is not always a negative state. On the contrary, in line with the pedagogy of discomfort developed by Megan Boler (1999), it is central to maintaining a critical eye. Indeed, according to Boler, our commitment to certain problematic beliefs (notably those related to the dominant ideologies in our culture) lies partly in more or less conscious emotional investments. Challenging them gives rise to a painful yet necessary experience of discomfort. This discomfort can be deliberately provoked by a specific pedagogy which seeks to problematize some “inscribed habits of (in)attention” (Boler, 2017, p. 11) and of thinking held by university students  (Ohito, 2016 ; Zembylas, 2017) or even by younger students  (Gregory, 2004 ; Zembylas & McGlynn, 2012). By taming their discomfort, youth thus cultivate a “willingness to live with new fears — what I call learning to inhabit an ethically ambiguous self” (Boler, 2017, p. 13).

See references.